Council Discusses Proposed Changes To DRRA Law

Members also consider increases in school construction fee.


Frederick, Md (KM). Proposed changes to the ordinance allowing Developers Rights and Responsibilities Agreements in Frederick County were discussed Tuesday by the Council.

The changes would limit DRRA’s to 1500 or more housing units, define and require enhanced public benefits, specify that laws and fees will apply to land developed under a DRRA, and limit the terms of these agreements to five years, with one possible extension of up to five yeas.

This ordinance is proposed by County Executive Jan Gardner, who said the last Board of County Commissioners approved DRRA’s which left the taxpayers on the hook for infrastructure improvements that the developers should pay.

During Tuesday’s workshop, Councilman Tony Chmelik wanted to know why DRRA’s were only for projects of 1500 homes or more. “If I’m developing lots, I have go through the same process whether I’m doing 500, 1,000 or 1500. Why the 1500? I haven’t heard a good reason why the 1500,” he said

Council Vice President MC Keegan-Ayer responded. “The 1500 is not necessarily set in stone. You were just trying to provide a number of a development that was large enough it might take a DRRA to lock in place the zoning of today in order to allow the developer to get the infrastructure in,” she said.

Councilman Chmelik was also concerned about limiting the terms of a DRRA to five years, with possibly another five-year extension. “I don’t think five years gives the marketplace the stability when you figure that people up here could change every four years. Executives will change every four years,” he said.

But Steve Horn, the County’s Planning and Permitting Director, says the DRRA’s lasting for 20 and 25 years will hurt the county in the long run. “It ties your hands in terms of a legislative body, in some of the things you can do. Some of the questions that will asked of you, of the County Executive, future county executives. Freezing fees; putting the brakes on some of the environmental regulations,” he said.

County Executive Gardner said the DRRA’s negotiated by the last Board of County Commissioners often exempted the developers from fees, taxes and regulations for long periods of time.

The Council took no action on this bill.

The Board also considered another bill from the County Executive to raise the School Construction Fee, which is what developers pay when their residential projects fail the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance schools test, and decide to continue building instead of waiting until the schools are adequate, or buildingĀ  additions to local schools.

The fees would go up for single finally detached homes, townhouses and/duplexes and other residential units.

Rick Harcum, County Budget Officer, says these proposed increases reflect the cost of building new schools and additions. “Our fee has been frozen in place since 2014. In that period of time, real life has gone on, the cost of construction has gone up well over 30%,’ he said.

But Councilman Chmelik said this would make it difficult for some people to purchase houses. “Do you know how many people you put out of the marketplace every time you raise a home $1,000,” he asked. “The income level for someone who qualifies for a purchased home, everything. You raise it $1,000, you knock out a certain percentage of the people who qualify for a home,” he said.

“You guys have managed to exceed the price increase of Obamacare. So that’s pretty significant,” Councilman Billy Shreve commented.

Councilman Jerry Donald said not everyone who buys a home will pay this school construction fee. “We’re only talking about places where it’s over capacity and they want to build anyway,”: he said. “It’s not all over the county. It’s just in some places.”

No action was taken on this bill by the Council on Tuesday.


By Kevin McManus